Mid way through the 2009-2010 NBA season and Tyreke Evans has to be the best rookie. The Pennsylvania native was drafted fourth overall by the Sacramento Kings and so far has been an absolute gem of a pick. Blake Griffin probably would have been talked about in this article and most water coolers if he had of stayed healthy this season. Griffin and Evans are probably two of a select few that were NBA ready coming out of the NCAA last year.
#1 Give Sacramento credit they really did there homework in drafting Tyreke Evans, he was mostly known for his Point Guard play at the University of Memphis, but the Kings have done a great job fitting him into the Shooting Guard/Small Forward position. Even though his minutes per-game are tops for rookies in the leaguer (37.3) he’s still one of the Kings go to players, averaging 20 points per game. Barring any unforeseen injuries you can consider Evans a lock for rookie of the year. Great basketball IQ fueled with a desire to be great will propel Evans as one of the NBA’s elite Guards in the league in years to come.
#2 If you were to tell me at this point last year how good Brandon Jennings would be and how much he would contribute to his team I would have said you’re nuts. Jennings’s experiment to by pass University and go straight to Europe was an interesting one, but a smart one. The Oak Hill Academy High School graduate by passed the NBAs feeder system (NCAA) for perhaps a new feeder system in Europe. Jennings played one year for Lottomatica Roma. A controversial move but a smart one. Jennings was drafted surprisingly high at 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. He didn’t waste any time getting himself comfortable in the NBA system. Right out of the gate he was scoring in bunches, breaking down defences and attacking the hoop. He’s got a great three point shot, you can tell that’s something that was worked on very hard in Europe. His first seven games played have to be some of the most impressive rookie numbers put up in the NBA. Lest we forget he did drop 55 points in his seventh game, to break the Bucks team record for most points by a rookie that was previously owned by Lew Alcindor in 1970. Yes I know it was against the Warriors and their..well not the greatest defenders but still impressive none the less. Lately his production has been average, teams are finally understanding his game and have developed ways to shut him down, but given time, he’ll figure out how to break the zone defence and his game will go to another level. Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles has to be happy with his rookie. He has shown a lot of trust in giving Jennings the ball and allowing him to run the offense, especially in late game situations.
#3 Jonny Flynn’s quick, smart, and tough. His toughness might be comparable to that of Chris Paul, but Flynn’s his own player and play’s his own game. The Syracuse product has done a great job of running the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offence, and is one of their leaders on the court. Minnesota took Flynn 6th overall right after Ricky Rubio but that’s a whole other blog for another time. Lately Flynn’s been scoring more that’s only because he’s starting to get comfortable in the system that he’s playing in. His assists are also very impressive for a rookie, even though they’re up and down from game to game he’s still coming into his own. He’s definitely a long term project for the Wolves but a good one, Jonny Flynn’s going to be an impressive player in the next few seasons.
#4 I’m putting Omri Casspi fourth. Who knew what this young man from Israel was going to do in the NBA. Many analyst thought he wouldn’t even see the court. But once again Sacramento Kings got it right drafting the 6 foot 8 Small Forward 23rd overall. Why not take him at 23rd? the 21 year old’s been playing against men since he was 17 for Maccabi Tel Aviv and other respected Euro clubs. He worked hard in pre-season for the Kings, and he worked his way into the rotation. He’s been doing a great job of crashing the glass and collecting rebounds. A big surprise is his three point shooting. Scouts knew he could shoot, but not like this. This guy can really shoot the rock. He’s 10th overall in the league in three point shooting, the only other rookie ahead of him is Stephen Curry who’s a three point specialist anyways. What a solid pick up for the Kings, he’s definitely a lucky find, ones that GM’s dream of in the NBA.
#5 I was sitting on my couch thinking about who I was going to round out my top 5 Rookies of the season. I was watching the Thunder squeak out a W against the Hawks. The score ‘s 83-79 for Oklahoma and Atlanta’s making a run in the fourth with 6 minutes to go. It’s not looking good for the Thunder as they were up by as much as 15 points. Oklahoma desperately needed a bucket and I thought they would run a play for Kevin Durant. It was actually Durant feeding James Harding, who pulled up with the shot clock at 3, drilling a tough 26 foot three pointer. Then it dawned on me, yes this is your 5th man. Harden was drafted 3rd overall by Oklahoma. The Arizona State product has been very impressive this season. It took almost a full month to get him comfortable playing the NBA game, but so far he’s averaged 10 points a game in the month of January. His assists are not ideal averaging 1.3 assists per game. He’s definitely a work in progress for a very young and talented Thunder team, but look for this guy to be one of their stars in a few years.